One hour and twenty five minutes, that was exactly the time taken by the jury to adjudge the winners at the fiercely competitive The Hindu Metroplus Pookalam Contest 2009 held at the Government Women’s College in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.

To select the winning pookkalams from the mesmerising floral patterns was indeed a challenging task for the judges, who found the choice daunting, both in terms of number of participants and richness of pookkalams. The jury, comprising of College of Fine Arts principal S. Ajayakumar and well-known art director S. Rajendran, was seen surveying the pookkalams again and again to select the best of the lot.

“Pookalams are essentially works of art. They are also a traditional art form which is why the traditional aspect is very important. Many of the pookkalams here are highly professional and it was very difficult for us to pick out one or two winners,’’ said Mr Ajayakumar.

What the judges voted for were the harmony of colours, traditional flavours and craftsmanship of arranging and laying the flowers.

“Ultimately it is the visual impact created through the colours and forms that matters. Some of these floral patters are very complex while some are deceptively simple. Overall, it has been an excellent competition,’’ said Mr.Rajendran.

At the end of it all, the coveted first prize and cash award of Rs 20,000 was won by Kairali Kala Samskarika Vedi, a team from Vizhinjam. Team members Theertha Gopan, Abhilash, Akhila Sunil, Abhina and Ajay P received the prizes from award-winning film actor Priyanka Nair.

Jury member Rajendran said that the team bagged the top honour for experimenting with contemporary designs within a largely traditional style of pookkalam. The intricate craftsmanship and contrast of colours in the pookalam also caught the judges’ attention.

"This is the second time that we are participating in The Hindu Metroplus Pookalam contest. The last time we got only the consolation prize. We are extremely happy to bag the first prize and we are already looking forward to next year’s contest,’’ said team member Ajay.

A colourful and visually enticing pookkalam by the Light and Shade team from Ochira in Kollam district bagged the second prize. Team members Shibi, Vipin, Shijo Baby, Tinsi and Shayama took home a cash award of Rs. 12, 500.

The third prize of Rs. 7500 was won by Icons team. Arun Kumar, Arun Mallika, Mini and Sujith T.S. were the members of the team, captained by Reji.

Ten other teams won consolation prizes of Rs 1,500. Winners of consolation prize are: The team from the Government Women’s College captained by C.J. Prassanna Kumari, Barton Hill Government Engineering College team led by Tejaswini, the team led by Valliammal B., Maharaja Arts and Sports Club led by Tara Gopinath, Blossoms led by Sharanya Das, LBS Institution of Technology for Women led by Shilpa, SBI LHO led by Sheeba Varghese, Invis Multitech led by Anitha, the team led by Baby and Sparrows led by Archana Devi.

Pookkalam is an Onam tradition of creating floral patterns using gathered blossoms. Keralites create floral carpets in front of their houses during the Onam festive season as part of elaborate preparations to welcome the mythical king Mahabali, who is believed to visit his subjects every year on Thiruvonam day.